Yes, Newt Gingrich has spiked in the polls. No, he’s not going to be the nominee. I’ve been trying to duck this one because it feels like laying out the obvious, but, briefly, three reasons:
1. The baggage he’s always had — the marital difficulties, the ethics troubles, a whole bunch of deviations from conservative orthodoxy over the years (such as that ad he shot with Nancy Pelosi: “Our country must take action to address climate change”) — just isn’t going to go away. Republican voters don’t have those things in mind at the moment, but no candidate is more vulnerable to attack ads than the former Speaker.
2. Message discipline, lack thereof. It’s impossible to imagine Newt not saying something that hurts him if there’s a microphone in front of his face for a three-week stretch, which is what wouldgoing to happen if the press decides he actually has a chance at winning this thing. We have a couple decades of evidence, including earlier this year, showing that he’s just not able to do it. For whatever it’s worth, I’d add that as I read the polling over the years, Newt’s basic act is unlikely to wear well with voters after extended exposure. People just don’t like the guy.
3. Both of those might be overcome, but this one won’t: it’s highly unlikely that anyone who worked with Newt Gingrich when he was Speaker would want him anywhere near the White House. As detailed in many places, but perhaps most memorably by David Maraniss and Michael Weisskopf in their terrific “Tell Newt to Shut Up!,” Gingrich proved to be entirely unsuited by temperament and skills for governing, and destroyed the House Republican Conference’s trust in him so quickly that they started plotting against him soon after he took over the gavel.
It’s one thing to have a nominee who might betray conservatives for his own electoral self-interest, as with Mitt Romney; it’s another, and far worse, to have someone who might sell out conservatives because he suddenly wakes up one morning and decides all on his own to go off in some other direction. That’s the danger of Newt as nominee or president.
Or, as Andrew Sullivan said:
Gingrich is definitionally what conservatism, properly speaking, opposes. Conservatism was born in the eighteenth century against the grand pronouncements of the French philosophes; it roots itself in practice not theory; it distrusts massive, profound reorganization of anything. In all of this, Gingrich is, in fact, conservatism’s nemesis: an autodidact megalomaniac, contemptuous of existing institutions, and bent on dragging an entire culture, country and, yes, civilization into a fantastic pocket of his own small mind.
Conservatives would be nuts to put Newt at the top of their ticket. I never like to make absolutely predictions, because in politics there’s always some uncertainty and something new and different is always possible. But unless some really odd circumstances that we haven’t had a hint of yet show up: they won’t. As Alex Massie puts it: “Newt? Forget about it. It’s fun but it’s not serious.”